Muslim, Tamil and Sinhala peoples benefit from clean drinking water projects.
To obtain drinking water, W. Indrasiri had to travel more than a kilometre to reach the common well.
Twice daily, the 55-year-old did this, bringing water in plastic cans carefully balanced on the common mode of transport in rural Sri Lanka: a bicycle.
But with the opening of the new Pakistan-funded 'Track 6' drinking water project in his village in the Trincomalee district of the eastern province of Sri Lanka, Indrasiri's burdens are now lighter.
"Safe drinking water was a major problem for us," Indrasiri told Khabar South Asia. "For bathing, we used the village tank. Yet, for cooking and other household needs, water was fetched from a common well.
"Whenever my bicycle was broken, my wife had to walk with me to the well to bring water in plastic cans and aluminum pots. It is an arduous task. Now, it is over. I feel relieved."
Through its High Commission in Colombo, the government of Pakistan has funded three separate drinking water projects for people recently resettled in the Trincomalee district: the Rotawewa project for Muslims, the Awweinagar project for Tamils and the Track 6 project for the Sinhala.
Altogether, 800 families benefit from these water schemes.
The projects are in villages once vulnerable to Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) attacks during the decades-long civil war that ravaged in Sri Lanka. At the height of the terrorist insurgency, people vacated their homes to live elsewhere in the country -- either with relatives or on their own.
Following the LTTE's defeat in May 2009, the Sri Lankan government took measures to resettle these people. A father of three children, Indrasiri is among the newly resettled. All now struggle to rebuild their lives amid a lack of facilities: water, access roads and transportation.
An August 7th press release by the High Commission detailed a rapid assessment it conducted with assistance from Governor Mohan Wijewickrama of the Eastern Province and the concerned local government "in order to understand the needs of local communities".
The need for safe water initiatives
The National Water Supply and Drainage Board welcomed Pakistan's assistance in providing safe drinking water to people. Already, the Board embarked on an ambitious project to ensure the country's total population has access to safe drinking water by 2020.
Board General Manager Lal Premanath said 82% of households in Sri Lanka have access to safe drinking water at the moment, and plans are in place to achieve the 2020 target. "We welcome assistance extended to us by Pakistan in this regard. There are other international organisations assisting us," he said, referring to assistance extended by the World Bank, UNICEF and the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), among others.
"Of these 82% of households with access to safe drinking water, 43% have pipe-borne water whereas the rest obtain it from wells, rainwater harvesting and tube wells. This is the national average. However, the situation is worse in the war-affected areas."
Health Director of the Eastern Province M. Thevarajan agreed that water treatment projects for former war-torn areas are important.
"We have contained waterborne diseases. That is not a problem," Thevarajan told Khabar. "Yet it is sometimes difficult to use groundwater due to high content of calcium. Also, there is a severe shortage of safe drinking water in the east. Safe drinking water projects are absolutely needed."
Marikkar Mohamed Nizam, 44, a Muslim who runs a Trincomalee filling station, appreciates Pakistan's assistance.
"I've seen how people walk long distances braving the scorching sun to bring water," Nizam said. "Women and children with pots of water balanced on their heads, walk in this way. Therefore, the provision of water is a meritorious deed."
Pakistan has assisted with and funded other projects in Sri Lanka such as building a hospital in central province, a three-story school in Gampaha District of western province, school science laboratories, computer centres and scholarships.
P. Sundaram, 46, a Tamil resettled farmer from Awweinagar, Trincomalee, also expressed his gratitude to the Pakistani government for addressing one of the basic life needs.
"It was a major problem for us to get water for household needs," Sundaram said. "Now, it is available in our vicinity."